Truth: It's Unlikely You'll be Attacked
"How likely is it, I mean really likely, that I’ll ever be attacked? I mean, I know it happens, but it seems like it happens rarely, and in bad neighborhoods, or to abused women, or to women who are distracted or frail."
We hear these questions often. And early on in our careers, like so many safety coaches, self-defense instructors, and law enforcement officers continue to do, we answered those questions with statistics, stories, anecdotes, and other reality-exposing fear tactics we hoped would "encourage" women to train. The results? Presenting the statistics rarely worked at convincing somebody who was unsure of training to go ahead and train.
So here it is. The truth. Once and for all, directly from two leading self-defense instructors with decades of experience: it is unlikely that you’ll be targeted as a victim of a violent crime.
There. We said it. And it is the truth. We swore off shoving terrifying statistics down the throats of women years ago. And you know what? Not only does it feel more honest and authentic, we're actually doing a better job of successful inviting women to join us.
Why don't the scary stats work?
We’re women. We’re smart as hell (totally unbiased opinion, of course). Knowing what it feels like to be shushed, silenced, shut down, made to feel smaller, quieter, unimportant, or less than is universal. The experience of being in a situation in which we feel unsure of our safety is universal. The knowledge that violence against women is real and a possibility is universal.
Women who choose not to learn self-defense do so because it's not the right choice for them at the time. For women who believe in the importance of self-defense, have the desire to learn self-defense, but don't pursue training, it is most often due to the fear that comes with the training itself, as well as the perceived potential emotional, physical, and social consequences of the training, but not because they don't know the stats.
Ultimately, fear is fear. Not only can the statistic sharing be construed by some as patronizing (yeah, we get it, being a woman can be dangerous), but fear-mongering through statistics simply works to elevate and expand upon the fear that is most responsible for women not seeking out training in the first place.
So what does work at helping women train? Acknowledging outright that being a woman can be scary and that self-defense training can be scary; talking about fear openly and honestly and normalizing it instead of stigmatizing it; and providing a safe, supportive, and positive training environment, free from scare tactics, in which women can feel comfortable addressing this fear and discovering their tremendous power within.
Why train, then?
If it's unlikely that you'll be violently assaulted, why train in self-defense? The obvious answer is because it might happen, even if unlikely, and being prepared with physical skills and not needing them is a far better outcome than needing physical skills and not having them. Plus, having those physical skills can be a huge confidence booster, as well as help to reduce anxiety. But it goes way beyond that.
Yes, the chances that you as an individual will be assaulted at some point in your lifetime aren't high. But if you're a woman, the chances that you'll be put in a position in which you feel powerless on some level is extraordinarily high. It might have happened today even. Or it might happen tomorrow.
Being made to feel powerless is something women experience with astonishing frequency. It could be at the hands of a boss or colleague, a partner, family member or friend, a comment, whistle, or catcall, negative self-talk or self-doubt, experiencing hatred based on your race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, or religion.
The antidote to powerlessness is action in the face of fear and/or shame, and the most effective and efficient vehicle to practice that action is self-defense training.
This is why we train.
The tools, skill sets, and personal power you gain through self-defense training directly affect how you respond and react in moments of lost power. Moments that we as women experience many, many times over. Self-defense training done right can, quite literally, be transformative.
Let's make a pact, then, to stop thinking of self-defense training for what it can help us avoid or prevent, and to start thinking of self-defense training for what it can help us achieve. Are you in?